This 110-mile crack is tearing apart an Antarctic ice shelf

Antarctic Ice Crack to Produce Monstrous Iceberg Later This Year

Antarctic Ice Crack to Produce Monstrous Iceberg Later This Year

Meanwhile, a research group called the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is monitoring a 110-mile crack in the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula.

The iceberg that breaks off will not itself raise sea levels, but it still plays a big role.

The Larsen A and B ice shelves, which are located farther north in the Antarctic Peninsula, collapsed in 1995 and 2002, respectively, leading to dramatic acceleration of glaciers behind them and a contributing to a rise in sea levels.

When the iceberg calves, it will be the fifth largest in recorded history. As you can see from the footage, the rift is very wide and extremely long. Two years earlier, an iceberg 10 times this size broke off in the same region, and scientists thought the recent break is an "aftershock" of that previous event that destabilized much of the area.

"If that happens, further iceberg calving could cause a retreat of Larsen C. We won't be able to tell whether Larsen C is unstable until the iceberg has calved and we are able to understand the behaviour of the remaining ice". The shelves act like bookends, holding up the massive stores of ice on the continent. Through a combination of field work, satellite observations, and computer simulations, they have catalogued how recent warming trends has caused seasonal melts of the ice shelf and affected its structure. "However, it is also possible that this iceberg calving will leave Larsen C in an unstable configuration", said Dr. Paul Holland, ice and ocean modeller with the BAS. It recently calved a comparatively small “aftershock” iceberg following a major July 2015 calving event. The likelihood is that Larsen C will continue that ongoing trend.

Antarctica
Iceberg Just Broke Away from Antarctica

There's a lot of evidence that climate change contributed to Larsen C's thinning, but ice shelves normally produce icebergs every few decades anyway.

"The stability of ice shelves is important because they resist the flow of the grounded ice inland".

In November past year, nearly 200 nations reaffirmed plans to combat climate change as an "urgent duty", anxious that U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will try to undo a hard-won global accord for limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

"[This phenomenon] fits into the larger picture of basal crevasses in the center of the ice shelf being eroded by warm ocean water, causing the ice shelf to break from the inside out", explained Ohio State University glaciologist Ian Howat in a statement.

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